Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Last Blog Post

On my first day interning, Ted told me that at Savas Beatie, two plus two equals ten.


Hundreds of e-mails, two press releases, five interviews, six or so copy-editing jobs, ten minutes of organizing the magazine rack, one hour of taking notes on inventory, countless conversations, three meetings, four filing projects, 18 blog posts, and thousands of observations later, I’m writing my final post.

Was Ted right? I think so. Sure, there’s always a giant stack of papers to shred, a couple invoice files to organize, maybe even some envelopes to lick. But I haven’t been doing that. Did I think that during my internship I’d be writing daily? That what I wrote would be posted on the Internet, read by actual people?


Did I think I’d meet authors, talk to them, and ask them questions? I don’t think so.

Was I expecting to sit in on meetings? Did I think I’d be treated like I actually worked here and wasn’t just a high school student dropping in for a few weeks? Or that I’d be able to copy-edit actual books (I am sure they checked things after me!), and help write press releases that would appear in newspapers?

For sure, no!

I think everyone at Savas Beatie showed me what two plus two did equals ten means. Everyone makes sure their work is valuable, and produces results much greater than the sum of its parts.

I’m ready to come back, during my spring break or next summer, to experience the unusual equation again.

This summer just flew by! Thank you Sarah, Ted, Veronica, Tammy, and Alex, for making Savas Beatie such a great place to work.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Interview with Ted Savas, Part 2: Personal

PG: Tell me about your family.

TS: Well, I've been married to Carol for 21 years, and we have two children, Demetrious (DT), age 13, and Alexandra Maria, age 18. DT is in 8th grade, plays saxophone and loves baseball. Alex is a sophomore in college and loves history, government, politics, and such.

PG: I wonder where she gets that?

TS: That apple barely left the branch. (laughing)

PG: What do you like to do in your free time?

TS: My hobbies are writing, baseball (playing a little, usually with my son, and watching a lot), reading, and since I don’t have a real job, sitting at my desk doing what I love with the best staff in the world is like a hobby.

PG: You said you enjoy watching baseball. What team(s) do you follow?

TS: I follow the Minnesota Twins, because I used to live in northern Iowa, and I also follow the San Francisco Giants because I live out here and I regularly get tickets to see their games. Great stadium, a solid team, and a day at the park is better than doing just about anything else.

PG: What is your favorite book?

TS: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

PG: Why?

TS: Because it identifies who you are and who you aren’t. It’s about liberty and the freedom of the individual, versus regulation and the enslavement of the individual, all for the “common good,” of course.

PG: But everyone is for individual liberty, right?

TS: No. Many who think they are act against their own interests without really realizing it because they are emotionally wrapped up in something. Think about what you support in your own life, how you conduct your own personal affairs, and then compare that to what you are willing to tolerate by public officials, and then study history. If you do that, you are forced to reevaluate who you are and what your priorities are. It can be very sobering when you scratch out a list and compare how you raise your kids and run your household with how you vote, for example, and the policies those politicians support. So often they conflict completely. There is a real cognitive disconnect out there.

PG: What would be your ideal place to live?

TS: Since I control where I live, the ideal place for me to live is where I am right now.

PG: (laughing) Not a desert island?

TS: Of course, I’d love to sling a hammock on a palm tree somewhere with coconut drinks and native dancers, but since I have to make a living, I guess where I live right now works just fine.

PG: What is your favorite movie?

TS: I really don’t have one. In the top ten would be The Prestige, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List.

PG: Do you watch TV?

TS: Not really. A little news, a little history/military channel, and some sports, but overall very little.

PG: What about your ideal meal?

TS: I would be with my wife, in a city we don’t usually visit, in a cozy authentic Thai restaurant that we’d just discovered. We would start off with old-fashioned drip iced coffee (the old French style—hard to find these days). We’d then have some coconut-based soup and spicy noodle dish, followed by a panang curry, spice basil beef, and top it off with mango sticky rice.

PG: Sounds like you’re a big Thai fan?

TS: Absolutely.

PG: What was your dream job as a child?

TS: Being a bass player for a world-famous hard rock band.

PG: Did you play any instruments?

TS: I played several: clarinet (I was so-so), classical piano through two years of college (I was pretty good), a bit of guitar, and bass guitar (which I played very well).

PG: What kind of music do you like to listen to?

TS: I love certain kinds of classical music. Primarily Mozart, Chopin, and some Bach in strings or on the harpsichord. I enjoy some soft music, like that of Dan Folgelberg and Gordon Lightfoot. But my favorite group, for the past thirty years, hands down, is Iron Maiden.

PG: Really? Iron Maiden?

TS: Yes.

PG: Why?

TS: These guys are exceptionally intelligent, amazing musicians, and are impossible to classify. Are they hard rock? Yes. Are they heavy metal? Yes. Are they something else impossible to pigeon-hole? Absolutely. Is it intelligent music? Yes. They write about grand historical events (Alexander the Great, the Charge of Light Brigade, D-Day, the Battle of Britain, etc. ) and they do it with amazing melodies and intricate scores. Their stuff is just incredible, and very few bands can play it.

PG: How did you find out about the band?

TS: I used to play in bands when I was younger, and we used to play a couple Iron Maiden (Running Free, and Transylvania). I kept listening to them over the years, and as I grew older, the band became better and better. The members are very intriguing. One of them (the lead singer) is a commercial airline pilot. In fact, he actually flies the band’s tour jet. He’s also a rated fencer in the UK. The bassist, who’s the driving force of the band, is a musical and business genius, and is also a semi-professional soccer player. These are professional musicians, exceptionally talented and lead very stable lives.

PG: What’s your favorite song?

TS: Probably The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

PG: What's that about?

TS: It's based on a very long poem of the same name written in the late 1790s by English poet Samuel Coleridge. I first heard the song live last year. Somehow I’d missed it before that. It’s a 13-minute theatrical production, really, and really close to the original poem. It’s a thing of artistic beauty to see and hear live.

PG: Who, in your opinion, is the most interesting historical figure?

TS: Jesus. Because if he lived, and if he endured what he endured, and did it for all the reasons we’ve been led to believe, then it’d be hard to say that the impact he’s had on the world has ever been surpassed by another historical figure.

PG: That’s interesting. What about your favorite military historical figure (since you publish so many military books)?

TS: There are so many. George Washington was an amazing and very complex man, and the more I study him, the more intriguing and larger than life he becomes. He’s one of the very few examples in history, maybe the only example, of a person who led a victorious army and could declare himself king, but refused the glory and left to go home. When he was elected president, he served well (who could have done better?), and when the time arrived, he stepped down and gave up power, setting the precedent for the peaceful transition of the presidency.

PG: What do you see yourself doing in the future?

TS: I picture myself doing what I’m doing now. Hopefully, I’ll be making the right decisions to grow the company, help my employees grow and thrive both professionally and financially, and do the same for our wonderful authors. I want to continue to put out books that people will read and enjoy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Interview with Ted Savas, Part 1: Business

Ted and I have had some nice chats over my last few days here at Savas Beatie. I decided to break up our talk into two separate interviews, one focusing on business and the other on personal info. Here is the first. I will post the second part on Monday.

PG: What sparked your interest in historical books?

TS: I’ve always loved history since I was a little kid. It’s something I was born with. When I was about 11 or so, my grandfather gave me a copy of Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants. I read it cover to cover, found and read the next two volumes, and set off on the trail that has led me to where I am at this point in my life.

PG: What about writing?

TS: I’ve always loved reading and writing, too. I used to write little 3-page stapled “books” when I was a kid, pretending I had a publishing company. This was back in the mid and late 1960s, so I guess I was fated to do what I do. (laughing)

PG: You are professionally trained as a historian, but you are also an attorney.

TS: Yes. I have a BA in American history with a minor in European history, and I finished about one-half of my master’s in American history before jumping to law school.

PG: How long did you practice law before moving to publishing, and what made you switch?

TS: I practiced law for 12 and a half years. Four or five years after I began practicing, I started publishing on the side with my friend Dave Woodbury (see for more information). That triggered the launch of Savas Woodbury Publishers, a quarterly journal called Civil War Regiments, and a slew of good Civil War books. David and I parted about 1996. But the bottom line is that for about eight years I ran a publishing business and a law practice at the same time. It got to be too much, and in 1998 I realized I had to choose.—my wife demanded it. LOL I surprised nearly everyone and chose the smaller (and often no) paycheck.

PG: What made you decide to start your own company, rather than work at an existing one?

TS: Because if I worked for somebody else they’d fire me.

PG: Are you serious?

TS: Yes.

PG: What makes you say that?

TS: My wife bought me a t-shirt that says “Runs with scissors.” I like to work on my own time, with my own schedule, and I like to do things my way. I want to dress however I want. If I want to take Wednesday off and take my family somewhere, I’d rather work all night the day before. Most employees can’t do that in their chosen professions. I can, and I am fortunate.

PG: Why did you move the company to El Dorado Hills?

TS: We grew tired of Silicon Valley. My dad was very ill in 1998, so we moved back to Iowa for a short time so he could spend time with my kids and we could just unwind. When he died, we moved back to California—to El Dorado Hills—because it’s a better place to raise your kids, my brother and his family lived here, and it was a lovely area with wineries, a major airport close by, and Lake Tahoe just 70 miles away.

PG: How many of the submissions that you receive do you decide to publish, and how do you choose which to publish?

TS: Like all or most publishers, we select a small percentage of what we get in. We’re looking for original, well-thought-out concepts that are well researched and creatively presented. There’s got to be something new and fresh and unique about the book. If there isn’t, we aren’t interested.

PG: I read somewhere that you have also been a teacher. Could you comment on that?

TS: I taught government and history at a high school in Iowa for a semester while I was in and out of grad school. I’ve been teaching college classes since about 1991.

PG: In the evenings? Even now?

TS: Yes. Right now the class I teach most is U.S. history, post-World War II to the present, and legal classes. Usually, I scrap the “official plan” for the first night, and I talk about the founding of our country.

PG: Really, why?

TS: The vast majority of our country is clueless at best about any of this material. It’s amazing how many adults—30-40 years old, with kids and jobs—say they don’t know anything about the history of our country.

PG: And that’s why you’re publishing historical books.

TS: Yes. I started Savas Beatie in 2004 with my partner Russell Beatie because the independent book market was not producing the sort of books that I thought we could produce. I think we’ve been filling a need in the marketplace, or at least I hope we have been. Cap Beatie plucked me from my sedate consulting life and thrust me back into the publishing world, and I owe him a debt on that score forever.

PG: Is Mr. Beatie active in day-to-day operations?

TS: No, that’s my job. But we speak 2-3 times each week about manuscripts, the direction of the company, and so forth. He’s a great partner. I could never had done this without him.

PG: Were you ever afraid that the investment would not pay off? Were there ever times when you felt you made a mistake in leaving law?

TS: No. I’ve never felt I’ve made a mistake. My advice to everyone is do what you’re passionate about. Whether it’s stand-up comedy, cleaning stalls, or publishing books. Sometimes I miss the money in law, but I love the fact that we’re producing quality books that people love and learn from. I think we’re furthering the historical discussion and for that we’re thankful.

PG: Do you see Savas Beatie branching out into historical fiction, fiction, or other genres in the future?

TS: No.

PG: Why not?

TS: It’s really not our strength. It requires an entirely different marketing and distribution model. My theory of business is to stick with what you do best, and then do more of it, better than before.

PG: I’ve noticed that you’re publishing more current event titles recently, like Mollie Gross’s Confessions of a Military Wife, Joe Balzer’s Flying Drunk, Nick Popaditch’s Once a Marine, and so on, as well as the Sports by the Numbers Series. Is this a direction you intend to continue exploring?

TS: Yes. Current events for me are a reflection of what our country is, and a reflection of what will be one day our studied history. Current events, politics, etc., are a strong passion of mine.

PG: You have written/edited many books published in six languages. Do you have a favorite?

TS: That would be very hard to pick one. If I had to, I would say there are a related pair. I’ve edited two books that were a real joy to put together: Silent Hunters: German U-Boat Commanders of World War II and its follow-up companion Hunt and Kill: U-505 and the U-boat War in the Atlantic. Many of the contributors overlapped, and both books are selling very well in German and other languages. I’ve also ghost-written a couple dozen books for other publishers, authors, and agents. That was fun, but I can’t publicly talk about them much so I am not doing that any more.

PG: Are you writing anything now?

TS: Yes. I’m finishing a screenplay with a co-writer.

PG: Really? What’s it about?

TS: It’s called Faces. It’s a thriller in which history, religion, and science fiction intersect.

PG: That sounds interesting. Do you think you’ll be able to sell it?

TS: Well, who knows really? We have some real interest in Hollywood, and we’re working with a director/screenplay writer who has been reading it along the way and is excited by it, so we have our fingers crossed. We’re going to write the novel if we sell the screenplay.

PG: Are you working on anything else?

TS: Yes. We’ve just secured permission from Barbee Carleton, author of Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge to pen it as a screenplay.

PG: I’ve never heard of that book.

TS: It was a cult classic that was really big when I was a kid. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Ms. Carleton is 92, so I am not confident we can finish and get a movie made while she is alive, but we are sure going to try. I always thought the book should be a movie, and this fall we’re going to turn to writing the screenplay.

PG: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

TS: Yes. I went into detail on this in my blog post Why do you write?.

PG: Thanks Ted!

TS: My pleasure, Parul.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Recap

  • Hoping to someday write a book myself, I always find it exciting when authors step into the Savas Beatie office. Ted went out to lunch today with local writer (Roseville) Richard Botkin. Sarah told me an interesting story about how he and Ted met:

Ted enjoys listening to Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, and began conversing with him via e-mail a few years ago about ancient history titles. Mr. Hewitt was in town a couple months ago, and invited Ted to have dinner with him and Richard. All three hit it off right away. Rich and Ted set up a time to meet again, since both live in the Sacramento area.

It turns out Rich is also an author of nonfiction. He wrote Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph, a history about the American and Vietnamese Marines who worked together throwing back the North Vietnamese invasion in the little-known Easter invasion.

I had the honor of meeting Rich and asking him about his book.

“Why did you write this?” I asked.

“I wanted to honor the Vietnam warrior and I also wanted to set the record straight on the story of South Vietnam. The valor and suffering of the South Vietnamese has not been chronicled very well,” he said.

Richard was also a former Marine Corps infantry officer, but he is not a Vietnam veteran.

The book looks interesting (Ted says it is a great read—the publisher sent him a copy in galley.)

The other week I got to watch one of our authors being interviewed on TV. Today I got to sit in on my first author radio interview. Sarah turned up her computer speakers at 11:35 a.m. and at 11:40, the Don Shelby Show (Minneapolis radio station WCCO) had Joe on as a guest. The host seemed to really like the book Flying Drunk. He recommended that everyone read it.

"I'd fly on a plane you were flying any day, Joe. That's how much I trust you. I recommend that everyone read Flying Drunk"

It still took me by surprise to hear Ted, Sarah, and Veronica dissect the interview (they were discussing feedback and tips to give to Joe, how he could incite interest in his book, etc.). It was interesting to be more than just a viewer or listener, and instead have a behind-the-scenes glimpse at another interview. I am surprised at how much time everyone here spends on marketing and publicity. They really have outside-the-box ways of looking at things. I don’t know too much about publishing, but from what it looks like, not too many publishers are very proactive on their authors’ behalf.

It sounds like there are more to come next week too so I’ll keep you posted in that front.

I think that’s enough for this week. I’ll fill you in on Monday on what I’ve been working on the past couple of days.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Interview with Alex Savas

PG: What exactly is your position at Savas Beatie?

AS: I’m most like a marketing assistant. I handle a lot of the social networking and publicity jobs.

PG: How long have you worked here?

AS: I’ve worked on and off for five years. For the past couple of months, I’ve been coming in and working every day.

PG: Do you intend to come back next summer or sometime in the future?

AS: I might next summer, but probably only for the first half. I have plans to study abroad next summer and I leave in August.

PG: Where will you study abroad?

AS: Freiburg, Germany.

PG: Where do you go to college, and what are you studying?

AS: I’m going to be a sophomore at Santa Clara University. I’m majoring in Political Science, and I’m double-minoring in International Business and German.

PG: Do you know what you want to do for a living?

AS: I don’t really know at this point. I think I want to go to law school, definitely some graduate school. Also, I know I would like a career that enables me to travel a lot.

PG: Have you considered publishing a book?

AS: Yes. When I was in 5th grade, I wrote a story that my dad said I could publish, but I was only 10 then (laughing). But yes, I can see myself writing a book in the future.

PG: What is your favorite book?

AS: Probably Catch-22.

PG: Who, in your opinion, is the most intriguing historical figure?

AS: Socrates.

PG: How does it feel to be the boss’s daughter?

AS: Well, I’ve helped out from home before, so I’ve always felt close to Savas Beatie. It’s not really any different working here.

PG: Thanks, Alex.

AS: No problem. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday Morning Meeting and More

Today, us Savas Beatie employees met and filled each other in on what we’ll be working on this week. I gleaned some interesting information and thought I’d share it with you:

  • Apparently galleys—advanced paperback copies of books for reviewers—are more expensive to print than final hardcover versions. Galleys cost about twice what it cost to print a final book, per unit. Shouldn’t polished versions of books cost more than quick advanced copies? I asked Ted and he filled me in on the publishing reality:

Very few galleys are printed, but it still takes a long time to set up the printer. On the other hand, final versions of books take far less set-up time in relation to how many are printed. Thus, galleys have a higher individual unit cost. Ted also mentioned that galleys need a different kind of printer. He said something about toner and the ink in galleys vs. the ink in normal books, but I didn’t understand it completely. He then explained that galleys are just “high-quality copying,” while the ink in normal books seeps into the pages (forgive me if I’m getting some of this wrong, but I think I’m on the right track).

  • After our morning meeting I heard Tammy and Sarah discussing Fed Ex prices to get a copy of Flying Drunk over-nighted to a prominent news network. More on that on Wednesday.

  • Did you know that almost 200,000 books are published each year in the U.S.? However, publishing companies only put time and money into marketing for 5-10% of them (they don’t schedule book signings/tours for most of their authors, which I was surprised to learn). The average book in America only sells a couple thousand copies, if that. If a book reaches about 7-8 thousand sold copies at a large publishing house, they determine that the book has potential, and the company will “counter attack” and “pour in their reserves” to help the book sell (the quotes are Ted’s words; he explained the marketing process to me this morning, apparently in Civil War terms). Savas Beatie follows a similar philosophy, and will do so even more as they continue to grow.

Our effort matches that of the author. If an author works to promote his/her book (by speaking at events, doing book signings, etc.), we put energy into marketing the book as well. And if a book does well on its own, Savas Beatie does what it can to help the book do better. If an author works hard, book sales will typically follow. If not, they won’t.

I think I’ve left you with enough to mull over for now. Check back on Wednesday to learn more about Savas Beatie’s other intern: Alex Savas.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

57 hours

Two p.m. today marked my 57th hour at Savas Beatie (us part-timers calculate how much we’ve worked on the last day of every month), and what a day it was: I forgot my laptop at home.

When I first realized I didn’t have it with me, I freaked out. Basically all of my work involves using Excel, Word, e-mail, or the Internet. I stepped into Sarah’s office hesitantly, fearing she’d tell me to go home (I live too far from the office to ask my mom to come and bring me my laptop).

Coincidentally, (and luckily) most of the projects she had planned for me today required old-fashioned, technology-free work.

I spent the majority of my time helping Veronica record this month’s inventory. By the time we finished, I truly appreciated the organizational skills of the librarians at the ancient library of Alexandria. Like them, we had to do it by hand. Veronica counted up the number of copies of each book, how many boxes we had for each one, etc., (while I noted everything down) and then she organized the storage room as she went. I guess bigger publishing companies and stores like Amazon must have everything computerized, and I can’t imagine having to do this periodically in a place with 100 times the number books Savas Beatie has in its storage room.

What’s interesting:

v Sarah showed me a newsletter from SPAN (The Small Publishers Association of North America). I found an interesting article about the “Millennial Generation”—Americans born between the years of 1981 and 2001. The article claimed that the “motivating factors” for America’s future leaders and customers are “convenience, customization, community, and ‘cool’”. As a representative of the Millennials, I found the article both hilarious and intriguing. Companies seek advice on how to better appeal to adolescents? How odd. The author even went into detail on how “cool” is defined and achieved. I found the section on “customization” particularly interesting:

“The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) has the capability to combine stories or chapters of different books under one cover. The machine is a robotic copier that accesses electronic files to create bound books on location in minutes,” it said.

And I thought publishing meant old-fashioned printing presses . . .

Before I go, I wanted to mention that the newly printed editions of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook came in today (Poor Veronica; she spent all that time organizing that stack and now she’ll have to do it again). See you on Monday!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with Tammy Hall

This week I've done my fair share of editing, and so far it's my favorite aspect of the publishing business. I don't have much else to say, so here's another staff spotlight:

PG: What exactly is your position at Savas Beatie?

TH: Admin/marketing. It’s similar to Veronica’s job except we’re here on different days and have different kinds of projects.

PG: How long have you worked here and what did you do before this?

TH: I’ve been here since April of last year, so 15 months (if you want to be really exact). Before this I was raising the family, working with my husband in his mortgage business, and working a variety of part-time jobs that were not particularly satisfactory.

PG: Do you plan on publishing a book, and if so, on what subject?

TH: Not at the current time. I read a lot, but I’ve never felt like I could write a book. (Laughing.) I’ll just keep enjoying ones that other people write . . .

PG: What is your favorite book?

TH: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

PG: What do you do in your free time?

TH: I play as much tennis as I have time for, work out, and read.

PG: As a child, what was your dream job?

TH: The funny thing is, I really thought I wanted to be a teacher, but by the time I grew up I realized that that was wrong for me. Teaching would have been a disaster job for me.

PG: What song is currently playing in your iPod?

TH: Oh, that’s a good question. I like Flo Rida, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Van Halen (w/DLR), the Eagles, and Queen.

PG: Thanks, Tammy.

TH: You’re welcome.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday morning, bright and early

I’ve switched up my hours a little bit and this week I’m here bright and early. Is it just me, or are there fewer phone calls in the morning?

Since my last blog post I’ve sent out 100+ e-mails about the new Black Ranger book, copy-edited the text on the dust jacket of one of our upcoming releases, The Maps of Chickamauga, become acquainted with the paper-shredder (I find this job very fun; I’m not sure why everyone else thinks it’s such a chore), and organized the Savas Beatie magazine rack (among other things). Now let me fill you in on what’s been going on at Savas Beatie this morning:

  • (around) 8:40 A.M.: David Farnsworth (head of Casemate, our distributor) calls. I think it’s important because Ted shut his door. Before that happens, I hear Ted mentioning our upcoming books Flying Drunk and Confessions of a Military Wife, and the conversation seems to be about presenting the titles to buyers, working with media consultants, and publicity. Hmm . . . I keep hearing the word “co-op” and I’m not sure what it means. Maybe it’s another one of those obscure words that can only be found in a publishing dictionary.

Ted filled me in on what a “co-op” is. It has to do with the books that we see on display on tables when we walk into Borders or Barnes and Noble, and the books whose covers face out on the ends of shelves (these are called end caps). Apparently publishers and distributors pay bookstores for this special placement. I always thought the arrangement of the display shelves and tables depended only on how well the books are selling, not on how much money a publisher puts in to advertise their books.

  • 9:06 A.M.: Sarah told Tammy to check on a UPS delivery of The New Civil War Handbook. Author Mark Hughes has a number of book signing events lined up on the East Coast in early August, and we want to make sure that each venue receives their books in time for their signing.

  • 9:47 A.M.: Joe Balzer (author of Flying Drunk) called and enthusiastically informed Tammy that he’d just finished a very successful radio interview at the EAA air show AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I didn’t catch the name of the station, but I did find out that they liked him so much that they invited him to come back for a longer, more in-depth interview.

That’s all for today. Come back on Wednesday to learn some interesting tidbits about Tammy Hall, my next interview victim.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interview with Veronica Kane

Well today’s Wednesday . . . that means it’s time for another Savas Beatie staff spotlight:

PG: What exactly is your position at Savas Beatie?

VK: I consider myself a marketing assistant. I answer the phone, fill orders, calculate authors’ royalty at the end of the year, keep track of book inventory and unpaid invoices. I also help Sarah set up radio/tv interviews for our authors, and sometimes I create flyers. Basically I do whatever needs to be done. And I update the website. That’s what I was doing just now (laughing).

PG: How long have you worked here and what did you do before this?

VK: I’ve worked here a little over a year. I started in May 2008, and the year before I was a part-time aide at my kids’ school. The previous seven years I took off to take care of my kids, but before that I lived in Virginia and was a production manager for a publications department.

PG: Why did you decide to work for a company like Savas Beatie?

VK: I wanted to get back into publishing. I like to edit, and I wanted to do something I was familiar with. Before I came here, I didn’t know that there was a publishing company in Sacramento, let alone one in my back-yard.

PG: Who do you think is the most interesting historical figure?

VK: After reading the first couple of chapters of our new book Sickles at Gettysburg, I know that I want to learn a lot more about Dan Sickles.

PG: Do you plan on publishing a book, and if so, on what subject?

VK: No, I don’t plan on it. My husband’s talked about it, so I might help him with it. A teacher at the school I worked at started a blog about the 500 things she wants her daughter to know. It became really popular and a publishing company asked her to write a book about it. So I joke with my husband that he can start a blog about manners, and someone will approach him and ask him to publish it.

PG: And then you can do marketing for that book too! (Laughing.) What is your favorite book?

VK: Lord of the Rings.

PG: What do you do in your free time?

VK: I don’t have much free time. I’ve recently taken up the guitar, but once school for my kids starts, their after-school activities start to take over and it’s 8 p.m. before I know it.

PG: How old are your kids?

VK: 10, 9, 7, and 5.

PG: You said you’re learning to play guitar. Is this your first instrument, or have you played any others in the past?

VK: I played piano when I was younger, and now I wish I hadn’t stopped. I also played flute for two years.

PG: What is your favorite food?

VK: Filet Mignon with Bernaise sauce.

PG: Mmm, sounds good. We’ll have to have a Savas Beatie meal with everyone’s favorite foods after the interviews are done!

VK: Sounds good!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


  • Remember a few days ago I told you about that book Flying Drunk? See for WBIR’s interview with Joe Balzer, the pilot who made the biggest mistake of his life, journeyed through the long and winding path to redemption, and wrote a book about it.

Today, we all gathered around Veronica’s computer and watched the WBIR interview, Joe’s first tv appearance. I treated it as I would any other television news show, but when it was over, I realized I was the only one to have done so. Apparently, everyone else had scrutinized every question and how it was phrased, Joe’s answers and the time it took him to answer each question, and Joe’s body language throughout the interview, including every movement and blink. When it was over, they immediately launched into a recap, highlighting what he had done well (there was a lot) and how he could improve (a few minor points). When they all turned to me to ask me what I thought, I was at a loss for words.

The general consensus, though, was that Joe had done exceptionally well, but that he could have made eye contact with the camera and interviewer a couple more times, and given some more specific examples from his book.

And I thought I was interning at a publishing company, but I guess a lot comes with the territory.

  • As of today, July 17, there are 2,954,540 (English) articles on wikepedia. I found out that Alex is working on a project to add Savas Beatie to the ranks of the omniscient online encyclopedia. She’s been working on coding and a bunch of other technical stuff that I don’t understand to get the page set up and links working properly.

Check out to see our new Wikepedia page.

  • I put together a press release (you know, those things that Apple sends to all the big newspapers every time they come out with a new iPod) about a book-signing event. No wonder the media is able to report events so quickly. They get press releases hand-delivered to their doors.
They don’t exactly spoon-feed you at this type of small company. Sarah gave me an example of a past Savas Beatie press release, and told me to look up information on how to write one on the Internet. I didn’t have much to go on, but luckily it turned out that writing press releases is very similar to writing news articles. Ideally, you want the media to be able to copy and paste what you wrote without any edits (although they often take the information and write their own article). This is where my high school journalism experiences became handy.
Here’s some information on the event that I wrote about:

On Friday August 7, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., author James A. Hessler will be signing Sickles at Gettysburg: The Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Declared Himself the Hero of Gettysburg at Gallery 30 in Gettysburg PA (30 York Street).
Well, that’s all I have to say today. Come back Wednesday to read another interesting Savas Beatie staff interview.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

E-mailing Galore and First Staff Spotlight

The concept of e-mail was not developed until around the time filming for Grease began, and it did not become part of daily life until the dot com boom in the 1990s.

So how exactly did people communicate before that? I don’t think I’ll ever understand. Here I am sitting not even fifteen feet from Sarah’s office, and I can hear her typing as clear as if she were sitting right next to me. Rather than asking her a question (she would easily be able to hear me), I usually e-mail her everything I have to say.

Yes, sometimes I get up and walk over to her office to ask her a question that’s easier to do so in person, but usually my computer talks for me. And this is at a small company. (I’m trying to envision the halls and rows of cubicles in Intel at their
campus a few exits down the freeway from us, and how exactly people within that behemoth operate.)

And why am I talking about e-mail? Well, today I e-mailed customers who reserved copies of The US Army’s First, Last, and Only All Black Rangers to inform them it is available to order. Then, I e-mailed reviewers to whom we sent copies of The Complete Gettysburg Guide in order to confirm that they had received their copies.
I also created Word documents with information on three of our Fall 2009 books (these will be posted on our website soon) and edited another interview transcript.

But, I digress. Today’s blog is not supposed to be a description of my day. Remember the other day I promised to post weekly interviews with Savas Beatie employees? Well, I decided to speak with Sarah first, so she is this week’s “staff spotlight.”
Interview with Sarah Keeney:

PG:What exactly is your position at Savas Beatie and what does it entail?

SK: I am the Marketing Director. When I first started working here, Ted told me that at small companies, you have to wear lots of hats, and I have and I do. Mostly, though, it’s a lot of working with authors and event planning.

PG: What have you been up to today?

SK: Today I’ve been proofreading a section of one of our fall titles, The Maps of Chickamauga—on occasion I even proof something!—preparing for the Flying Drunk release, and coordinating authors’ schedules for book signing events in August. I’ve also been working on promoting our titles to both people and companies familiar with our books, and also to new customers.

PG: When did you start working here?

SK: I started working for Savas Beatie in 2004 (around the time Ted was starting and developing the company), and it was my first job out of college. While in college, I was doing some work for Savas Beatie on the side, so it dovetailed well.

PG: How did you find out about Savas Beatie?

SK: I knew Ted Savas and his family when they lived in San Jose, CA in the 1990s. We were family friends and I would babysit for his two kids.

PG: Does what you’re doing here relate to what you studied in college?

SK: I studied journalism and public relations, but I didn’t like the “news room atmosphere.” My concentration was on public relations, and that matches up with many aspects of what I’m doing now.

PG: Do you have a role to play when someone submits a book for Savas Beatie to publish?

SK: I do. If Ted likes it, we discuss the whole process, from the book in manuscript stage all the way to how we can market the final product, how active the author will be, will he or she be a good fit for our company, that sort of thing. Almost every book submission we receive would be a good book somewhere, but we have to be able to sell it and work well with the author.

PG: Could you give an example of one of your books and why you published it?

SK: Sure. A couple of our Gettysburg titles were written by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides. They had to pass a very difficult test to get a license that allowed them to become battlefield tour guides. There are only about 150 of them out there. We knew that these authors were already leading tours, and that they would be out there promoting, marketing, and selling their book upon publication. That kind of partnership is key to the success of any publisher today.

PG: Have you considered writing a book yourself?

SK: (Laughing) No. I think I like the behind-the-scenes work more. But if I were to write one, it would either be historical fiction, or it would be a non-fiction guide on how authors and publishing companies can work together to promote their books. Ted Savas and our Playing with the Enemy author Gary Moore have some great ideas in that vein.

PG: Really? I have to ask him about that. Speaking of books, what is your favorite novel?

SK: I can think of two right now: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter.

PG: What do you like to do in your free time?

SK: I like to cook, read, and spend time with my family (my husband Nate, my mom, my dad, and my dog Pal). I also like putting together photo albums and scrapbooks, but I’m always behind on those projects . . .

PG: You said you like to cook. What is your favorite dish?

SK: Macaroni and cheese with cauliflower. It’s really good. I also like baking cakes, cookies, etc.

PG: Ok, thanks Sarah!

SK: My pleasure. It wasn’t too bad going first! (laughing)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tips and Flying

“The three pilots showed no emotion as the court clerk read the verdicts. But some family members in the courtroom began quietly sobbing. Each pilot faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.”
This is a segment from a New York Times article—Northwest Pilots are found guilty of Drunken Flying (August 21, 1990)—about the first ever drunken flying conviction of professional pilots. A bar patron had notified Federal officials that he had seen the three drinking heavily the night before in a bar in Moorhead, Minn., near Fargo (the flight was from Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis).

Joseph Balzer, the plane's 35-year-old flight engineer, vowed to fly again. ''It's hard to keep a good pilot on the ground,'' Balzer offered. “That's kind of like asking Picasso if he will ever paint again.''
Balzer, after fully redeeming himself, not only fulfilled his vow (he has been flying for many years with American Airlines), but has published an account of his journey to sobriety.

And we, Savas Beatie, are the proud publishers of this bittersweet memoir, Flying Drunk: The True Story of a Northwest Airlines Flight, Three Northwest Pilots, and one Man's Fight for Redemption (July 25, 2009).

Today, while checking our website for link validation, I came across this incredible story (and my assumption that Savas Beatie only published Civil War / military books went out the window). Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting new release throughout the summer.

Sales Tip: Mark Hughes, author of The New Civil War Handbook, had a book signing last Saturday at Books-A-Million. He mentioned that his first signing earlier in the month did not go nearly as well as this one. Why? This time, Mark made a poster. You know, one of those big folding types that 4th graders slap pictures on before giving a presentation about George Washington.

Well, Mark said his visual addition attracted a great many customers. It’s simple: He blew up pictures from his book, used the captions, and placed the poster board on his table. Violá, a buzz of interest, more customers, and . . . better book sales!

That’s all I’ve got to say today. Check back on Wednesday (my schedule is now Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for my next post. For those of you who have heard enough from me and want to know a little more about the rest of the crew, I’m going to start posting weekly interviews with members of the Savas Beatie staff!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ships and Speeches

In 1898 Morgan Robertson wrote a novel, Futility, about a ship—the world’s largest—hitting an iceberg on a cold spring night. The ship in this fictional story was named the Titan. No, Robertson did not base this story on the Titanic. The real floating palace did not sink until 1912, a full 14 years after Futility was published.

Just thought I’d share that with you. Seven years ago, my 4th grade teacher read us an article about this eerie coincidence, and while flipping through Lee W. Merideth’s 1912 Facts about the Titanic, it popped into my mind.

Today I contacted Mr. Merideth to conduct an interview with him about his upcoming book, California: A Student’s Historical and Cultural Handbook, which will be published late this fall. I was planning to glance through one of his Titanic books to learn a little about his writing before e-mailing him. (Glancing turned out not to be enough, though.)

On another note, Edward L. Posey’s The US Army’s First, Last, and Only All Black Rangers just came out. Casemate (our distributor) is mailing out review copies (lots of them) to the media. I, the lucky intern, was given the job of making an excel chart to keep track of which media requested a review copy of the book, their shipping address, etc.

Sure, I expected the Sac Bee to be on the list. Maybe a couple of local radio stations. But I did not at all expect to see The Washington Post, the New York Times, or the Oprah Winfrey Show on the list of reviewers. A publisher with an editorial office in a small town gets requests from the big guys. (And the Washington Times just gave the book a glowing double-thumbs up here!)

What’s interesting:

  • Savas Beatie will soon be announcing it Savas Beatie Speaker’s Bureau. Many of our authors routinely speak (many for free, some for a fee) about topics related to their books (For example, Nick Popaditch and Gary Moore, who wrote Once a Marine and Playing with the Enemy, respectively, speak around the country for a fee, lodging, etc. ). Since we have so many eloquent authors (according to Sarah) and will be more aggressive than any speakers’ bureau, it would be better if we managed the speaking gigs in-house.

Ted was telling me that one of our authors, Mollie Gross (Confessions of a Military Wife), is a stand-up comedian. I have heard that her book is hysterically funny. I think I’ll see if I can take a peek at her manuscript. Maybe while looking through it I’ll pick up some jokes that I can use to spice up next week’s blogs . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Go, Kings!

As I made my way to my non-cubicle this morning, I was greeted by a brand-new, glossy, straight-from-the-printer copy of the Sacramento Kings book by Daniel J. Brush, David Horne, and Marc CB Maxwell. But unlike the rest of its fellow Sports by the Numbers books, this one is sponsored by the Bank of America.

The foreword is written by Kim Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Sacramento (BGCGS).

BGCGS is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 “in response to a growing need in our community for constructive after-school programs for our youth.” Seventy percent of its members come from financially challenged backgrounds—family incomes of less than $23,000.

The Bank of America, a continual supporter of BGCGS, worked with Savas Beatie to provide BGCGS with copies of Sacramento Kings for the program (to be used for reading activities, games, etc.).

So, if you want to show some support for your community, cheer on your local “ballers,” or just brush up on some basketball trivia, go check out a copy of Sacramento Kings.

Today’s Events:

  • If you’re looking for an interesting way to spend your evening in the Sac area, go visit the Sacramento Civil War Round Table (CWRT). Tonight’s speaker is none other than The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln author Larry Tagg. The Sacramento CWRT meets once a month at seven p.m. To learn more go to
  • Ted announced that the Savas Beatie emergency exit is now fixed. (We received a large shipment of books, and they are now no longer blocking the hallway.)

Now that I’ve finished sending out e-mails, filing invoices for May and June, organizing books, editing an interview transcript, and sifting through blogs, I think it’s time I step out of the office.

Before I leave though, let me fill you in on a secret I’ve picked up: Two times two can only equal ten if you’re working in a small office. Those engineers at big corporations like Microsoft will never understand this equation.

I mean, where else would a high school intern be given the opportunity to write a publishing blog on the first day?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lists, Mixed Martial Arts, and a little bit of Baseball

A few quick notes and updates from today. Not many phone calls. I guess everyone’s sleepy today. (I know I’m ready for bed.)

I’ve been searching through Civil War blogs and compiling a list of e-mail addresses (if you received an introductory email from me, you know who you are!). I also added the finishing touches to my blog page.

What’s Exciting: FIGHT! magazine will feature a review of Mixed Martial Arts (by Daniel J. Brush, David Horne, Marc CB Maxwell, and Zac Robinson) in their August issue. This is another one of those Sports by the Numbers books, a series for sports aficionados.

The cool thing about this book, other than the fact that it has four authors , is that the picture on the cover is of none other than Ted Savas’s son’s former Taekwondo teacher.

“We wanted somebody posed in a fighting position on the front cover who was familiar with MMA, but many photos like that are licensed,” Sarah told me this morning. “So we called D.T.’s old instructor, Robert Barge, and asked him if he’d be willing to pose.”

Barge now sells copies of the book at his local studio, Overcome Training.

Interesting Books: Remember yesterday I told you I’d let you know if something on the bookshelf caught me eye? Well here it is: Playing with the Enemy by Gary W. Moore. The story is about a farm boy (from a town in Illinois “so small even map makers ignored it”) headed for the big leagues. The Brooklyn Dodgers became interested in the 15-year-old prodigy, but unfortunately Pearl Harbor interrupted the boy’s baseball career. The boy and his (Navy) team are sent on a top-secret mission: to guard captured German sailors. Gene convinces his commander to let him teach the enemy to play baseball.

Another one of those wishy-washy poignant baseball stories? Nope. What’s remarkable is that this story is true. Plus, the author is the boy’s son. Who knows? Maybe Homer actually first heard the Odyssey from Telemachos.

Well, it’s time for me to head home. Check back tomorrow to see what else Savas Beatie has in store for me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back to Work

It’s Monday morning after the Fourth of July Weekend. Most Americans still see sizzling burgers and dazzling colors every time they close their eyes. Offices are full of languid, yawning employees, trudging half-heartedly to their next meeting.

But Savas Beatie is engaged and active as usual. Here are a few snapshots of what went on today:

11:21 a.m.: I finish my first batch of Savas Beatie filing. (So, I actually do have to take a walk in the average intern’s shoes once in a while. On the bright side, the filing only took me 18 minutes!)

11:54 a.m.: Ted announces two new enthusiastic five-star reviews for Sickles at Gettysburg. Check out to see what readers have to say about James A. Hessler’s book.

12:22 p.m.: The Sacramento Kings book just shipped.

12:36 p.m.: I overheard Ted telling Sarah that the second paperback edition of The Maps of Gettysburg (by Bradley M. Gottfried) is bound today and ships from the printer tomorrow.

12:47 p.m.: Ted shuts his door to give Mr. Beatie an update on what’s going on in the office this week. (And I finally learn where the “Beatie” part of Savas Beatie comes from.)

1:40 p.m.: Ted’s getting confused. Facebook troubles. (Parents start texting, and Facebook’s used for business. What’s next?)

What’s Interesting:

  • Last Thursday I met Larry Tagg, author of The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln. (Tagg was a musician, author, and high-school teacher . . . These days you’re behind if you’re only on your second career.) I was lucky enough to sit in on a marketing meeting for Tagg’s book, and I picked up some cool business/marketing secrets. Sorry, I won’t be discussing them online (not today, at least).
  • Tagg wrote an article on Lincoln in the Civil War Preservation Trust’s magazine Hallowed Ground. It should ship to subscribers the third week of July.
  • Today I set up my own blog page. Since you’re reading this, then you obviously found it. Please be sure to share this link with others you know interested in books, military history, publishing, and marketing

Well, I think I’m going to head over to the bookshelf to browse and then call it a day. I’ll let you know tomorrow if something catches my eye. Also, I welcome any ideas you may have for future blog posts. Let me know by commenting here, or send me an email at

Setting In

Only Day 2 and I already feel at home in the Savas Beatie office. Ted succeeded in scaring me this morning when he asked me where my suit was. (By Day 3, I’ll be comfortable enough to recognize jokes right away.)

Today’s been extremely busy, so please excuse my lack of detailed observation (I forgot to check on those plants). From counting and organizing signed book plates (the company does something really cool with these; I explain more about them farther down), posting events on the web (check out BookTour), sitting in on a meeting, and editing an interview transcript, I was served a full plate today.

Things to note:

  • Did you know publishing companies print out “advanced copies” of books before they’re released? Sarah (our marketing director) showed me one of these. The ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copies), also called “galleys,” usually look just like (albeit unedited) finished paperback versions of the books. These are for editing and reviewing purposes. I was under the impression all of the reviewing was done on word documents, not on a printed and bound version of the book. (I guess, being a Harry Potter fan, I’m too used to J.K. Rowling’s secrecy.)

  • Savas Beatie is working to immerse itself in the social networking environment. Today I sat in on a meeting between Sarah and Alex and was amazed to hear the different ways sites such Facebook and Twitter can be used as marketing and business tools. Who knew Facebook wasn’t just for showing your friends prom and birthday photos?

Interesting Books: The Wars Against Napoleon by General Michel Franceschi and Ben Weider is another book that exposes misconceptions about a historical figure that have become canonical. According to Weider, who passed away last year, his motivation for writing this book with Franceshi was “correcting history and enabling Napoleon to gain the respect he deserves.” Be sure to read the late Mr. Weider’s interview for more information. We’ll post it on our website soon.

Today’s big events:

  • Sacramento Kings book by Daniel J. Brush, David Horne, and Mark C.B. Maxwell (from our Sports by the Number series) is shipping from the printer today!
Now I still need to ask Ted about the two plus two equals ten theory of his . . . Stay tuned!

SB Insider: Two times two equals ten

First impressions: “Two times two equals ten.”

I had no idea where he was going with this when Savas Beatie’s managing director Theodore P. Savas first said it. I’ll admit, after a couple of hours as an exclusive observer (a 16-year-old summer intern, actually) of the Savas Beatie publishing environment, I’m still not completely sure what he meant. (Stay tuned later in the week for an explanation.) Nevertheless, I do know a lot more about what goes on in a publishing company than I did before I walked into this quaint little office in El Dorado Hills, an upscale and quiet suburb east of Sacramento, California.

This morning I was fretting about what I should wear to my first day of work. I envisioned an office with briefcase-carrying, business-suit adorned men and women typing away and answering calls in their cubicles. I didn’t think anything I owned was nearly formal enough. Nor did I imagine that I would be doing anything other than licking envelopes and filing papers.

What a surprise I was in for . . . not a cubicle in sight! I have my own work area: a big round conference table stacked with various Savas Beatie books, a green plant in the corner (there are many of these in the office; I’ll get back to you about whether or not they’re real), and a large whiteboard keeping track of future books by title, author, genre, publishing date, editor, and so forth.

I didn’t expect to see all these bookshelves and book displays. I’ll admit in the back of my mind I was hoping I’d glimpse one of those old-style printing presses in some lonely room. There are a lot of Civil War paintings adorning the not unattractive beige walls, and a “300” Spartan movie poster in Mr. Savas’ office. I guess I should have expected so much, considering it is a historical book publishing company.

Overview: So, eight to ten books each season (publishing seasons are fall and spring), a lot of marketing, and some shipping (most books ship from a central warehouse outside Washington, D.C.) Not too big of a place. . . several offices and lots of open space, with four people working today when I first came in. No one gets bored here.

Interesting books: After looking around at the bookshelves and stacks throughout the office, one book that jumped out at me was Larry Tagg’s The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln. Who knew “Honest Abe” wasn’t venerated by his contemporaries!?

Today’s big events:

  • A little bit of concern over whether or not J. David Petruzzi’s signed copies of The Complete Gettysburg Guide were sent out. (Don’t worry, it’s all settled now, and they are going out tonight.)
  • We got a call from Manassas National Park about Bradley M. Gottfried’s new The Maps of First Bull Run, which they just started carrying. We are working with the buyer on positioning the book in their store and setting up a time for the author to sign copies around the battle anniversary.
I am looking forward to tomorrow . . . and finding out why two times two isn’t (always) four . . .